Oral Sex: An Intriguing Risk Factor For Throat Cancer

Enthusiasts of oral sex got a fright of their lives when the celebrated actor Michael Douglas accused cunnilingus as the reason behind his throat cancer. The allegations on oral sex created quite a stir forcing the actor to refute his claims at a later stage. Nonetheless, researchers claim that people who indulged in oral sex often could be actually putting themselves at risk for oral cancer.

Oral cancer includes cancer of the mouth, lip, tonsils, esophagus, larynx (voice box), throat, and the thyroid gland. Although drinking and smoking are the common risk factors for cancer, several scientific studies have found that 25–35% of throat cancer cases are caused by an infection by human papillomavirus(HPV).


Oral Sex And The Spread Of HPV.

HPV spreads through oral sex

Human papillomavirus(HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Out of 200 strains of HPV, 15 of them are capable of causing cancerous changes in the cells they infect. HPV spreads via sexual contact between mucous membranes of the anus, mouth, penis, tongue, and vagina. Indulging in oral sex frequently with infected partners can make you vulnerable to getting infected too.


Most people who are infected with HPV don’t show symptoms and it clears away on its own. But when infections persist, it can cause cancerous changes in cells of the cervix, oral cavity, and anus. This is the reason why HPV infection is a high-risk factor for oral cancer.1

Multiple Sex Partners And The Risk Of Cancer

multiple sex partners and oral cancer risk


You don’t have to completely abandon the pleasures of a good session of cunnilingus or fellatio to prevent the chances of oral cancer. Researchers have found that individuals who practiced oral sex in strictly monogamous relationships were less likely to suffer from HPV transmission which can lead to cancer at a later stage.

However, those with risky sexual behavior that involved oral sex with 6 or more partners have higher chances of developing oral cancer. A long-term study found that people who had more than 6 oral-sex partners in their lifetime had 3.4 times higher risk of developing throat cancer.2


Ways To Reduce The Chances Of Throat Cancer

how to reduce the risk of throat cancer

Oral sex can protect you against many sexually transmitted diseases that are usually spread by vaginal or anal intercourse. But not taking the right precautions during oral sex too can also lead to hazardous consequences for your health. Follow the tips below to stay reduce the risk of STDs and HPV-related oral cancer3

  • Use a non-lubricated latex condom to cover the penis while performing oral sex on your partner.
  • For oral sex with a female partner, use a dental dam for added protection.
  • Don’t involve multiple partners in your sex life.
  • Get yourself tested to check for any STD and make sure your partner is uninfected too.
  • Getting vaccinated against HPV can help in warding off any infections caused by the virus.
  • Vist your dentist twice a year so that any initial signs of cancer like non-healing ulcers or swellings can be screened at the earliest.
  • Quit drinking and smoking as it can greatly increase your risk of oral cancer even if you indulge in oral sex or not.

HPV-related cancers can spread rapidly from the oral cavity to lymph nodes and vital organs. The best way to prevent it is to practice oral sex with discretion and get yourself screened on a yearly basis. This will be beneficial for the sake of your health as well as that of your partner’s.